S Africa’s ruling ANC to back opposition motion to close Israeli embassy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian protests in South Africa
Demonstrators protested in Cape Town in support of Palestinians, amid Israel's ongoing war in Gaza, on November 1, 2023 [File: Nic Bothma/Reuters]

South Africa’s ruling party has said it will support a parliamentary motion calling for the Israeli embassy in South Africa to be closed.

In a statement on Thursday, the African National Congress (ANC) also welcomed a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa for the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes.

“Given the unfolding atrocities in occupied Palestine, the African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israeli embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until it agrees to a ceasefire,” the statement said.

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will propose the motion later on Thursday, also calling for the suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid Israel’s war on Gaza. The motion will be voted on at a later date.

The EFF’s motion is largely symbolic as it will be up to Ramaphosa’s government whether to implement it. But ANC leader Ramaphosa and senior foreign ministry officials have been vocal in their criticism of Israel’s leadership during its military campaign in Gaza, calling on the ICC to investigate them for potential war crimes.

Pretoria’s strong support for Palestine dates back decades to the fight against apartheid in South Africa, which the ANC was at the forefront of. The country likens the plight of Palestinians to that of Black South Africans under white minority rule, with former President Nelson Mandela saying in 1997: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

“As South Africa, we have accordingly, together with many other countries across the world, referred this whole Israeli government action to the International Criminal Court,” Ramaphosa said on Wednesday during a state visit to Qatar.

“We have put through a referral because we believe that war crimes are being committed there. And of course, we do not condone the actions that were taken by Hamas earlier, but similarly, we condemn the actions that are currently underway and believe that they warrant an investigation by the ICC,” he added.

Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas that governs Gaza have been at war for more than a month. Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people. Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 11,300 Palestinians in Gaza.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told Al Jazeera that Israel must put a stop to “this real crime against humanity” in Gaza.

“We are appalled at how this horror and tragedy that is unfolding continues to get worse and worse. I think the world has seen enough, and it is time for the most powerful in the world to put a stop to this horror that Israel is unfolding against the people of Palestine,” she said on Wednesday.

Israel’s occupation has “very, very clear similarities” to some of the practices that defined apartheid South Africa, she added.

Earlier this month, South Africa recalled its diplomats from Israel, but it has not had an ambassador to Israel since 2018.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies